Ahhh the dreaded rejection. The letter comes in the mail (or email) and you open the thing carefully hoping for good news. Then you read the one page cold-hearted letter stating that there was 800 applicants for 12 positions and even though your work was stellar, you still are not going to get the brass ring. I recently received a letter just like this rejecting me from a fellowship from an unnamed organization for the second year in a row.
So what next? Curl up in a ball on the couch with a gallon of ice cream and a romantic comedy? Put your fist through a cheap door? How about a drunken stupor where you rant to anyone who will listen how stupid they are for not accepting your work? (that is my personal favorite by the way) Or do you just quietly stick the letter in the recycling bin and get back to work?
Well, it is probably time to get back to work. The first thing I do is call in someone to look at the work and make sure that I wasn’t crazy for sending it in in the first place. Step two, look at the work and re-edit the hell out of it. Try different sequences and see what you could have done better. Step three, look at the artists who did get in and get a feel for what the judges were looking for. This is also something to do before you send your work in as well. Make sure your work is right for what you are applying for and who is judging it. Step four, make more work. Don’t stop. Try new things. Try it from different angles, with different concepts, and everything else you can think of until you get it right.
Last, but certainly not least, do not panic. Everyone gets rejected. It is how many times you reflect and come back from rejection that really makes a good body of work. Many of us had the luxury and training of college and graduate art critiques to toughen our skin before going out into the real world. For those of you who didn’t try and find a local or online critique group that you can take part in. I promise your work will be better for it.
Well almost. I started adding the atrocious amount of links to other great artists into my website today. I have been putting it off for a while now. Stop by and check some of them out. I’ll see if I can get the other 300 or so added in the next couple of years….
I ask myself that very question on a regular basis. I have a hard time letting go of a project and drawing a line in the sand that designates the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. Most of my photo projects are unfinished and I will continue to work on them in the future. Like a river they all just seem to flow into the next and become part of something larger. A few are finished. Signs of Life was finished the day that Google started adding in watermarks all over Google Earth. Richard and Thelma is near completion as my grandparents are about to move out of their home of 40 years and into my aunt’s house due to their failing health. However, both of those are considered finished because of outside influences and not because of my own decision making process.
So as you can see I have a problem. Or maybe it isn’t a problem at all. Who is to say a project can’t just keep going on? Why do we need do draw definitive lines? Is it the nature of the photographic beast? So then the next question is, when is the work ready to show? That is a question that I don’t yet have an answer for. One of my past mentors would never show work until they were clearly done with the project and already into their next one. I don’t necessarily subscribe to that philosophy. I am currently working on a project that I don’t know if it will ever have an end to it and I am in the process of putting the work out there for the public now. As it continues to grow over time I am sure it will morph into something bigger and hopefully better, but I don’t think I should wait until 30 years from now when the project is officially “finished” to put the work out there.
So when is a project finished? I think when you lose interest in your subject matter then it is time to move on. When the act of going out and photographing for the project becomes a chore then it is probably time to take a good look at it and possibly move on. For myself, generally, I have a hard time moving on to the next because I rarely lose interest in a project. In a way most of my projects are all related to each other and focus in on the same basic idea, so technically speaking, they are never really finished and they are all just part of one continuous exploration for something I may never actually be able to capture. That doesn’t mean that I won’t keep trying though.
My bookmark list for photo and art blogs used to have well over two hundred blogs on it. It is now down to twelve after I just deleted two more today. Why you may ask? To tell you the truth, much like Facebook, I was no longer getting anything out of them. Many used to post interesting work and opinions. I no longer look at blogs that post others work. Many do so without permission of the artist which is a form of theft in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I have done it in the past as well, but I no longer do so unless it happens to be an event flyer that turns you onto a new show or gallery. Many others only post their cohorts work and it literally goes round and round in circles until I begin to believe that there are only about 200 hundred or so photographers out there. As for interesting opinions… well…
Now it may seem odd that I am writing, or more aptly, complaining about something while doing the very thing I am complaining about. The truth is – it is odd. Why keep writing something if I don’t believe in the power of it anymore? Actually I do believe in the power of the word, it is just that these days I have very little time on the side for writing as an underpaid (or not paid) position. Making new work, getting a graduate degree, working, and taking care of a six month old is quite capable of filling my time.
I think many of the blogs out there in the ether world of the Internet were started for very good reason and then like me many discovered that it was another job that we didn’t have the time for. Some now lay defunct like the garbage in a Burtynsky photograph while others just post guest written filler that amounts to nothing but self indulgent blabber and doesn’t add much to the conversation at all. Some have cashed in their chips and rolled their success into something bigger. Good for you. For some people the blog was simply an inflation device for their ego. Either way it got old quickly for them too.
I can’t remember the exact reason I started writing this blog. I do remember having a genuine interest in passing on interesting shows and bits of my working process to others which is what I continue to do, albeit at a varied pace these days. I also get the chance to rant every once in a while, which if you know me personally, I do on quite a regular basis. I am a huge fan of expressing my disgust with injustice. But I also started this to help others along the way. I have a genuine interest in helping others and moving the photographic world another step forward. It is the reason I chose teaching as a profession. It was the reason I sat down with David to start Fraction magazine a few years back. That experiment didn’t quite pan out the way I had in mind so I moved on to other pastures, but luckily David continued on to keep it alive.
So where does the blog go from here? Hopefully the future of the blog involves a new iteration of the comments section. That has failed to evolve into anything more than a bathroom wall in a truck stop as far as opinions and new knowledge goes. Even lively discussions have often turned into mud throwing and trolling insults as of late.
More importantly what can we learn from blogs in the future? Or more succinctly, what would I like to see from blogs in the future? I would like to see more of fellow artists work in progress and their working process. I would like to see more community form that isn’t just interested in promoting each other, but in truly forming community that benefits each other and one where true friendships form. I would like to see more open and honest dialogue about the future of photography as art and a viable business. I don’t even mind seeing tutorials on being a better photographer etc, just realize that if you are in the business of photography you are giving away your knowledge for free and creating armies of competition for yourself. What would I like to see less of? Less shameless self-promotion. Less commercial product placement. ( I don’t care what photo bag you use) And most of all less filler.